by Aimee Nezhukumatathil
My parents are from countries
where mangoes grow wild and bold
and eagles cry the sky in arcs and dips.
America loved this bird too and made
it clutch olives and arrows. Some think
if an eaglet falls, the mother will swoop
down to catch it. It won’t. The eagle must fly
on its own accord by first testing the air-slide
over each pinfeather. Even in a letter of wind,
a mother holds so much power. After the pipping
of the egg, after the branching—an eagle is on
its own. Must make the choice on its own
no matter what it’s been taught. Some forget
that pound for pound, eagle feathers are stronger
than an airplane wing. And even one letter, one
vote can make the difference for every bright thing.
Copyright © 2020 Aimee Nezhukumatathil. This poem was co-commissioned by the Academy of American Poets and the New York Philharmonic as part of the Project 19 initiative, and appeared in the Spring-Summer 2020 issue of American Poets.
PHOTO: Flying bald eagle by David Osmond, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of the illustrated collection of nature essays and Kirkus Prize finalist, WORLD OF WONDERS: IN PRAISE OF FIREFLIES, WHALE SHARKS, & OTHER ASTONISHMENTS (2020, Milkweed Editions), and four poetry collections: OCEANIC (Copper Canyon Press, 2018), LUCKY FISH (2011), AT THE DRIVE-IN VOLCANO (2007), and MIRACLE FRUIT (2003), the last three from Tupelo Press. Her most recent chapbook is LACE & PYRITE, a collaboration of garden poems with the poet Ross Gay. Her writing appears twice in the Best American Poetry Series, The New York Times Magazine, ESPN, Ploughshares, American Poetry Review, and Tin House. Honors include a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, a Mississippi Arts Council grant, and being named a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow in poetry. She is professor of English and Creative Writing in the University of Mississippi’s MFA program. Visit her at aimeenez.net.
Author photo by Caroline Beffa.